Mixed Review of Jesus—The Lost Forty Days

imageJoe Lunceford has provided us with a mixed review of the History Channel’s Jesus: The Lost Forty Days over at The Bible and Interpretation. He writes:

Perhaps the weakest link in the chain of evidence presented was its reliance upon the genuineness of the Shroud of Turin. One of the participants in the program conceded that by carbon 10 (sic, it is 14) dating, the shroud was dated between 1260 and 1390 CE. By using a work of art that apparently depicted the shroud, he argued for the much earlier existence of the shroud, although the actual difference between the time of the work of art and the shroud was less than a century. A great deal of the argument rested on the genuineness of the shroud. Take that away and much of the argument crumbles.

Actually, the significance of that work of art, a drawing in the Hungarian Pray Manuscript is very significant when fully understood in its historical context. And there is considerably more evidence that the carbon 14 dating is wrong. Perhaps the show could have been a bit stronger on this point. He continues:

Several careless statements or depictions also marred the presentation. For example, Mary Magdalene was said to have gone to Jesus’ tomb alone. This depends upon which Gospel one reads. . . .

Agree, but that really was not the point, here. And . . .

. . . Identification of the “disciple whom Jesus loved” as John and the author of the gospel raises serious questions, in my judgment. For John to have referred to himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” would be extremely arrogant. I think this is one of the strongest arguments that John, son of Zebedee, was not the author of the Fourth Gospel.

Or, frankly, someone else altogether (my favorite theory). This is not what the show was about, however.

Further, presenting a picture of Thomas placing his finger in Jesus’ wounds is something else which is not supported by the canonical gospels.

Agreed. As I read it, Jesus called Thomas’ bluff.

Having said all this, the computer imaging was fascinating, though I am not sure how much it proves; the discussions were thought provoking at many points.

Very fascinating. Proves? Nothing. What it might infer? Much!

One participant raised the issue as to what constituted resurrection, i.e., whether it included bodily resuscitation or a different type of body. I would have liked to have heard this pursued at more length. I would also have been more interested in the “lost thirty years” between Jesus’ infancy and his earthly ministry, which is a total blank spot in the canonical gospels except for Jesus’ being taken to the temple when he was twelve years old.

Good subjects for a couple of different documentaries, I suppose.

Another ‘Shroud Encounter’ Presentation

imageKatlyn Bacon reporting in MetroWNY:

“Shroud Encounter,” which covers all aspects of the history and science of the Shroud of Turin, came to Joylan Theater on April 17 (Palm Sunday). International expert Russ Breault, the president and founder of The Shroud of Turin Education Project Inc., has been researching and lecturing on the Shroud of Turin for more than 25 years.

If it was Russ Breault, it was excellent. Read the full article: The Shroud of Turin Education Project presented ‘Shroud Encounter’ at Joylan Theater | News | Metrowny.com

String religion. Now, that makes sense.

imageIf you ever wanted to at least slightly understand string theory, Andrew Hickey has written a brilliant piece called Part 5: Zatanna over at Sci-Ence! Justice Leak! should help . . . or not. But it is a fun read:

There’s an area of physics called ‘string theory’. As a matter of fact, this – and M-theory – are misnomers. A theory, in science, has predictive power – people have been able to come up with tests of the theory, and run those tests, and the result has been consistent with the theory. String ‘theory’ should really be called the string hypothesis – as it makes no predictions which are currently testable, let alone actually tested. Unlike quantum theory, or thermodynamics, it’s not made a single prediction which can be confirmed in the observable physical world. In fact, possibly even hypothesis is too strong a word – string philosophy, or string religion, might be better.

But despite this complete lack of testable predictions, physicists have been working on string theory for over forty years. This is because we currently have two separate theories of the universe – General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics – which are both, as far as we can see, absolutely accurate, with no exceptions to either ever having been found, but which are incompatible.

I find things like this because I Google ‘Shroud of Turin.’ This paragraph did it. And if you ever read Frank Tipler’s books, you understand:

There have been several attempts at Theories Of Everything that do this over the years – Einstein spent the last forty years of his life working on various dead-end attempts, and the physicist Frank Tipler has argued in a rather wonderful paper that Richard Feynman actually *did* discover the theory of everything, back in the 1960s, but hadn’t realised it because his theory unfortunately required an infinite number of terms in the equations.{FOOTNOTE Tipler has *also* argued at times that he’s proved the existence of God, that Barack Obama is evil because he doesn’t believe in aether, and that if we clone Jesus using genetic material from the Turin Shroud we’ll be able to figure out how to get free energy from baryon annihilation. He’s one of the more…original…thinkers in physics. But in this case he makes a reasonable argument.} But none of these have had much success among what for want of a better term we can call the physics ‘community’, in part because they’re not neat. They’re not nice.

It is a two cup-of-coffee read. I recommend it: Part 5: Zatanna « Sci-Ence! Justice Leak!

Search this blog on Tipler to see more nuttiness.

The Archaeology of the Bible by James K. Hoffmeier

imageThe Western Reformed Seminary Journal has a new review by John A. Battle of The Archaeology of the Bible, by James K. Hoffmeier (Oxford: Lion Hudson, 2008). Here is an excerpt with a brief mention of the Shroud of Turin:

If you’re looking for an attractive, well balanced survey of biblical archaeology by a recognized expert, this volume would serve your purpose well.  James Hoffmeier is an experienced archaeologist, specializing in the region of Egypt where the Israelites lived and through which they traversed to the Holy Land.  Hoffmeier, unlike many modern “minimalists,” takes historical texts seriously, whether from the Bible or from Egyptian or other sources.  While he teaches at a Christian institution and holds to an evangelical view of the Bible, he openly points out where the biblical record is strongly attested by archaeology and where that record has difficulties.  He makes it clear that we do not presently have all the data, and probably never will; therefore, he says, we need to suspend judgment in some cases.

The book is well organized with an introduction to archaeology and its practice in the biblical lands.  He then goes chronologically through the major periods of Israel’s history and the times of the early church, showing the important archaeological discoveries that help to explain or illuminate the biblical text.  Since his specialty is in the archaeology of the Egyptian settlement and exodus of Israel, his contributions in these chapters are especially interesting.  He supports the so-called late date for the exodus.  The materials he includes for the study of the united and divided monarchy of Israel are especially strong and well illustrated.  The chapters on the New Testament trace the major locations and artifacts for the life of Jesus, the early Judean church, and the cities of Paul.  Since the book is fairly recent, it includes major recent discoveries that further illumine the biblical narrative, including continuing debate on the Shroud of Turin and an interesting discussion on the disputed ossuary of James the brother of Jesus.

I will need to check out this book.

See Western Reformed Seminary : Personal Touch… Pastoral Vision

The Shroud of Turin in the Opera

imageMark Berry writes of the Leipzig Opera’s Parsifal on Good Friday . . .

Parsifal on Good Friday, in the city of Wagner’s birth: how could one resist? I had enjoyed Roland Aeschlimann’s 2006 production, a Leipzig co-production with Geneva and Nice, when seeing it two years previously, and for the most part did so again, though there were perhaps some passages, especially during the third act, when its status as a repertory piece was now a little too evident. . . .

Colour, as I wrote last time around, plays an important role, both in demarcating locations and in the dramatic transformations – an especially important concept in this of all Wagner’s dramas – that occur within particular scenes. That is the aspect which perhaps above all puts me in mind of the aforementioned Wernicke Tristan. I remain intrigued and equally uncertain about Aeschlimann’s Grail. Amfortas uncovers something mysterious – no problem there – and holds up a sheet which, by a trick of lighting presents what continues to remind me of a Turin Shroud-vision of Christ.

Leipzig Opera’s Parsifal on Good Friday | Seen and Heard International

Dissent of the Day on “How Different Beliefs About the Shroud Can Be”

imageBigr writes:

Apparently D. Porter, you didn’t watch all of the evidence presented in the History channel’s, “The Real Face of Jesus.” The way it was determined how light could produce the ‘precise’ image of the face of Christ is explained very clearly. It can’t be proven at this time that the person whose image on the shroud is actually the Christ, the image does exactly depict the Gospel descriptions of the suffering Christ. The fact that the face cloth (also described in the Gospels) precisely holds the image and stains in a perfect alignment to the shroud is even further testimony to the authenticity of the cloth as the burial cloth of Jesus. There have been pollen samples held within the cloth of plants that are indigenous to the area around Jerusalem.

The carbon dating was also thoroughly debunked by artistic impressions that predate by hundreds of years the carbon dating. This then becomes a case when the evidence supports the Gospel story in every detail.

Be not faithless, but believe.

In a feat of modern technology, a life-sized head of the man of the shroud was created. Using a printer – scanner and printing an image of the head on a two dimensional surface, the precise image appeared that exactly matched the image on the shroud.

BigR: Ray Downing, who did the work that shows “how light could produce the ‘precise’ image of the face of Christ,” is a friend. I’ve discussed his “feat of modern technology” with him. It is very convincing. Even so, I am not personally convinced. How it could and how it actually did are not the same. Though Ray and I may disagree on this particular point, it was an honor to be in that wonderful History Channel documentary with him. (I was the big guy too wide for the wide screen TV).

That doesn’t mean that Ray and you aren’t right. I’m not there yet in my thinking. That’s where faith and belief are helpful. So thanks, BigR.

Everyone: Check out his great blog, Big R’s World.

How Big a Winner on iTunes is Jesus, the Lost 40 Days?

From among 124 History (History Channel) Specials for sale in iTunes, Jesus: the Lost 40 Days is in first place and The Real Face of Jesus in seventh place, as of this morning. That is excellent coverage for the Shroud of Turin.


Keep in mind that The Real Face of Jesus has been nominated for two awards.

The Film – I’m Not Jesus Mommy

Cloned from bloodstains on the Shroud of Turin? You knew it was only a matter of time until a movie was made. Trailer, Synopsis, Initial Theaters for this Indy Film


Dr. Kimberly Gabriel, one of the nation’s top fertility specialists, lives in irony as she is unable to have children of her own. Her chance comes when Dr. Roger Gibson recruits her on to his human cloning project.

In an act of desperation she steals an embryo from Gibson’s laboratory and finally fulfills her dream.

The world falls in to chaos and strange happenings surround her son, David, as they struggle for survival.

Kim is faced with the truth on her son’s origin… does David represent mankind’s last hope or something else?

In the Anglican Continuum: The Shroud of Turin, the Work of Ray Downing

imageMUST READ: Fr. Robert Hart has posted a significant review of both "The Real face of Jesus" and "Jesus, the lost forty days"

The specials now [at Eastertime] seem to be less insulting to our intelligence (not to mention our faith). On the whole, this is better. Nonetheless, even the best specials that aired in 2010 and 2011 must be challenged in part, though the better  portions of them can be received as wholesome and sound. I speak here mainly of two specials that aired on the History Channel about the work of Ray Downing, described as the "creator of the 3D computer technology that produced the ‘real face of Jesus’ from the image of the crucified man in the Shroud of Turin." In 2010 the History Channel produced "The Real face of Jesus," from which it borrowed whole sections for "Jesus, the lost forty days" in 2011.

First, let me say why I believe these productions have merit.

On the whole, I think Downing’s work is valuable for apologists, and that he was completely correct when he said (as reported on World Net Daily), "Jesus was more than just a spiritual event. Studying the Shroud [of Turin] to produce the 3D face of Jesus, we encountered scientific evidence that the resurrection was a real physical event that happened in a moment of time 2,000 years ago."

I agree. Considering all the evidence, I am convinced that the famous shroud, which defies all attempts to explain it away, contains an image created by a kind of energy as yet unknown to the most advanced science. Certainly, the resurrection of Christ was a physical event, and so a burst of mysterious energy into the created universe of space, energy, matter and time, had to be part of how the miracle occurred. It appears that what it left for our observation was the closest thing possible to a photograph of Christ’s resurrection.

Hart doesn’t like the fact that Elaine Pagels was included in the broadcast. That is no surprise for this very conservative Anglican Episcopal group. While I’m not a big fan of Pagels, I did think there was benefit to having liberals included.

Continue reading at The Continuum: Lost 40 days?

Skeptic’s Package Deal Fallacy

There has to be a name for this fallacy of logic. One with a highfalutin Latin name would be nice, something like argumentum e contrario.  Perhaps something from a great work of logic like Apologia Pro Vita Sua would be nice. But, alas, I name it the Skeptic’s Package Deal.

It goes like this:

How ridiculous it is that people believe in things like the Loch Ness Monster, leprechauns, genies in bottles and imaginary friends like Jesus.

Now, if you are an Atheist you might say, “Well, yeah.” Jeff Schweitzer used the fallacy in a piece he wrote for the Huffington Post on April 8:

Without an ability to reason critically, people believe in weeping statues of the Virgin Mary, the existence of a carved face on Mars, out-of-body experiences, and Christ’s image captured on the Shroud of Turin. 

imageI was disappointed to see Michael Catt use it in the Baptist Press on April 25:

There are hundreds of cathedrals that claim to have the skull of Paul or Peter. There is a church in Ethiopia that claims to have the Ark of the Covenant. Such claims are too common to be believable.

Then there was the Shroud of Turin, which was supposedly the burial cloth of Jesus. Add to that statues that weep, the face of Jesus in a tortilla, and a host of other scams and aberrations and it becomes laughable.

I understand that his point was to criticize the documentary, "The Nails of the Cross." In fact, the argument that two nails found in Caiaphas’ tomb is an argument using the worst sort of fallacy. Here I agree with Catt:

Professor Israel Hershkowitz says in the documentary, "Based on the size, shape and condition of the nails, it is possible that these were used in crucifixion." True. Factual. BUT, notice "crucifixion" not "the crucifixion" of Christ. Thousands were crucified by the Romans. It was a common form of death penalty for criminals. There would have been hundreds of nails.

He says it’s "possible." Sure it is.

But why package these nails with a face of Jesus in a tortilla, which is ridiculous and the Shroud of Turin, which is not to a great number of scholars including scientists, historians and archeologists.

The Real Face of Jesus Nominated for Two Awards

imageThe History documentary The Real Face of Jesus has been nominated for two awards.

1)   The Banff World Media Festival: the Non-Fiction Rockies

Hosted by Mike Holmes, Canada’s Most Trusted Contractor, the Non-Fiction Rockies ceremony will honour the year’s most outstanding Documentary and Factual programming from around the world.

WHEN: Monday, June 13th, 5:45pm – 6:45pm

WHERE: AOL Canada Theatre


image2)  The Factual Entertainment Awards

The Factual Entertainment Awards will be held in Santa Monica, CA at the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel on June 1, as part of realscreen’s Factual Entertainment Forum. The event pays tribute to factual entertainment excellence from around the world.

When: June 1 &2, 2011

Where: Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel

Non-fiction – Best one off or special category

The Trouble with Tribalism

imageSteven and Michael Meloan in the Huffington Post:


New Atheist authors like Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins have declared that religion is the root of most global conflict. In our novel The Shroud, we explore the notion that tribalism is the true underlying factor behind these conflicts. It is part of our evolutionary heritage. Many physicists and other researchers believe that modern scientific developments resonate with spiritual pursuits and may lead to greater unity, allowing us to override some of our tribal and territorial impulses.

Quantum entanglement, or Einstein’s "spooky action at a distance", demonstrates that the universe is interconnected down to the most essential level. And the discovery of "mirror neurons" in humans and other primates demonstrates that simply seeing something happen to another creature lights-up the same neurons as if it were happening to us. In a very real sense, we don’t entirely distinguish between the self and others. And this is particularly true when witnessing suffering. A sense of compassion and empathy seem to be hard-wired in us.

From elementary particles to cellular systems to tribes, cities, countries and virtual communities over the Internet, science and our deepest intuition increasingly demonstrate that we are intrinsically interconnected. And this connectedness may even transcend the physical plane as we now know it. Research at the Institute of Noetic Sciences in California demonstrates that the interconnection once thought to exist only at the quantum level may scale all the way up to the macro level — such that intention may somehow affect the physical world.

The challenge going forward will be to propagate these connections and thwart tribalism, using myth, memes and meditation.

Read the entire article. It is excellent: Steven and Michael Meloan: The Trouble with Tribalism

Jeff Schweitzer On Heaven is for Real

imageJeff Schweitzer, you wrote in the Huffington Post:

We’ve seen the bright light. We’ve been to heaven and back. The latest best seller is about a round trip visit to the netherworld. The book has broken all sales records for the publisher, Thomas Nelson, which specializes in Christian publications. The protagonist is an 11-year-old boy who claims he died, went to heaven and returned to the living to give us his tale in Heaven is for Real: a Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back. The book is titled under non-fiction, because after all the father claims that everything the boy says in the book is "all true."

What a great formula for success: to a broth of established religious superstition add a pinch of life, death and heaven, stir in some pabulum, add a cute little innocent boy and simmer until a gullible public anxious to hear anything to validate a belief in the unbelievable lines up to buy the story — and voila, a best seller. The boy’s journey is presented to us by his father, the Rev. Todd Burpo, who leads a small evangelical congregation in Nebraska. The book is co-written by Lynn Vincent who gave us that stirring tale, Going Rogue, with Sarah Palin. Note that the trip to heaven happened to a boy who coincidentally comes from an evangelical family who already believed in an afterlife prior to the brief visit there; and that we are taken on his journey by a writer with an established conservative agenda. What we are not told is why anybody would want to return to earth from heaven — after all, it’s heaven.

The success of this book, and others akin, demonstrates an odd paradox about the faithful. We are told by believers that faith needs no proof. Faith alone is sufficient to believe in God. Any attempt to refute the existence of any higher power using logic, evidence or reasoning is shut down with a dismissal of rationalism as a secular plot perpetrated by humanists incapable of understanding the meaning of faith. But oh how those same believers immediately glom onto "evidence" for their beliefs like iron shavings to a magnet, no matter how ridiculous or absurd, quickly forgetting the idea that faith needs no proof. So people cite as evidence, of which they purportedly have no need, weeping statues of the Virgin Mary, out-of-body experiences and Christ’s image captured on the Shroud of Turin.

Here we go again: the Shroud of Turin.

Jeff, on April 8th, you wrote:

Without an ability to reason critically, people believe in weeping statues of the Virgin Mary, the existence of a carved face on Mars, out-of-body experiences, and Christ’s image captured on the Shroud of Turin. 

And I wrote:

Is it because I believe in something religious that I lack an ability to reason critically? I’ll give you the weeping statues, the silly face on Mars, and out-of-body stuff. You are probably right. In the first two instances, the evidence is clearly against such things. In the third case there is little evidence other than personal testimony in favor out-of-body experiences. And, so far, cognitive science studies suggest that these are only sensations (though the work is far from complete).

When it comes to the Shroud of Turin, there is a rich body of scientific research (by real scientists, dozens of them, who I suspect can reason critically)  that suggests that the relic might be or could be authentic. If we confine ourselves to prestigious peer-reviewed scientific journals, those with the highest standards, there is not a single standing argument against authenticity. Extend thinking beyond science to history (by real academic historians, dozens of them, who I suspect can reason critically) and there is a body of evidence that suggests it is probably real.

I’ll bet we get back to this issue of critical reasoning.

The burden of proof when citing evidence to substantiate faith is disturbingly low. Here is the truth filter in the Burpo case, according to the father’s logic about this son: "If he was making it up, he would have gotten something wrong. But he got nothing wrong. He got it all right. That’s what started our journey."

So let’s see. The boy got nothing wrong (repeated again as the opposite, he got everything right). That’s it. That’s the proof. We are not told against what metric that right and wrong are measured, or how the father evaluated that since he has not yet made the journey himself. But the boy got everything right (got nothing wrong), so we are off and running.

Did you read the book, Jeff. I don’t agree with the metric. And certainly I’ve expressed my reservations. But the metric was, as stated in the book, an interpretation from the New Testament, particularly the Book of Revelations. Now my interpretation is different than the Rev. Burpo’s. He is clearly a Biblical literalist and fundamentalist. I am not. The metric he uses is invalid, as far as I’m concerned. Critical thinking, Jeff, includes fair statements. Here we go:

The commercial success of Heaven is for Real is a sad consequence of our declining public schools, which have failed to teach our youth how to evaluate dubious claims. This inability to think critically matters. Political candidates can make absurd claims, factually untrue and easily verified as false, which are accepted as Gospel by the faithful. Thinking critically matters to our very survival unless we wish to succumb to demagogues.

Thinking critically matters if we wish to maintain a viable economy in a future based on high tech. A society that is largely scientifically illiterate will clearly be ill equipped to survive in the 21st century, unable to guide advances in science and technology toward the greater good. Although understanding basic science is critical to everyday life in a technology-driven world, the subject is given grossly inadequate treatment in most public schools today. As a result, people are often poorly equipped to understand the complexities of an issue before forming an opinion about the costs and benefits of adopting or restricting a particular technology. They believe a boy went to heaven and back.

The inability to think critically underlies many of our cultural wars. Nearly all the great ethical challenges facing society today are exacerbated to some extent by rapid advances in science and technology. Current political, religious and educational institutions are improperly armed to address the moral consequences ensuing from scientific achievements. In any society dominated by religion and religious morality, technology often proceeds at a pace greater than society’s ability to address the associated moral dilemmas. The issue of therapeutic cloning offers a prime example. Religious bias and scientific illiteracy combine powerfully to restrict a technology with extraordinary potential for good, with little associated risk. The solution is not to retard technologic advances, from which people benefit greatly, but to adapt school curricula accordingly and accelerate the adoption of an ethical code capable of addressing these challenges. But we can’t do that if people believe a boy went to heaven and back.

I don’t know if the boy went to heaven and back. I have my doubts. It doesn’t fit my worldview. It doesn’t accord well with a scientific worldview. But critical thinking demands more than mere dismissal, which is really all that you offer. That, Jeff, is fundamentalism-of-another-kind. What, really, is your argument?

Atheism has tried to capture the high ground in the burden of proof argument. And if Atheism owns it than an Atheist can claim the boy did not go to heaven for it is unproven. And if Atheism owns it, then the Shroud of Turin is a fake no matter what the evidence because the proof bar has not been reached. Doesn’t sound like critical thinking to me, Jeff.

Full article: Jeff Schweitzer: Heaven Can Wait

Resurrecting Mystery of the Shroud of Turin

imageAn outstanding article, Resurrecting the mystery of the Shroud of Turin: Debate reignites over whether this is the face of Jesus, by Robert L Wilcox, author of The Truth About the Shroud of Turin, appeared in the NY Post on Easter Sunday.

Like it has so many times in its long, tortured history, the Shroud of Turin is again, this Easter 2011, resurrected. I don’t use resurrected lightly. If authentic, the ancient linen cloth with mysterious images of a crucified and tortured corpse on its fibers is tangible proof to many Christians of Jesus’ rise from the dead. And while authenticity is certainly still in debate, the burden of proof now — at least on the Shroud’s inexplicableness — has shifted to the doubters.

Read the full article: Resurrecting the mystery of the Shroud of Turin – NYPOST.com

How Different Beliefs About the Shroud Can Be

imageWhen reading what skeptics have to say about the Shroud of Turin, it is not uncommon to read sentences like, “Believers in the shroud’s authenticity say that the image was formed . . . .“ Skeptics simply put in where the dots are whatever they think believers believe or whatever they may have just read on some blog.

Just to show how wildly views can vary among people who think that the shroud is real let me disagree with several points in this  posting from Big R’s World:

Scientists and graphic artists are able, with today’s technology, to raise a three dimensional image from the Shroud of Turin to reveal precisely what the face of  the man in the Shroud looked like.

Precisely? Maybe. It is my opinion that if we don’t know exactly how the image was formed, how the cloth might have been draped on the body and so forth, we can’t know. But many friends of mine, who have also spent years studying the shroud, disagree with me on that point.

. . . The mystery remains on exactly how the photographic image was formed except there was light that traveled through the body similar to the way the light moves in a photo copy machine. 

I understand that argument. I’ve studied it. You might be able to model an imaging mechanism this way. But, frankly, I’ve seen no evidence that suggests that light was in any way the cause of the image. From a chemistry point of view, I’m far more inclined to believe that the image was formed by slow chemical reaction between amine vapors emerging from the body and a reactive substance on the cloth such as a natural soap residue.

Is the image of the man in the Shroud actually the Lord Jesus Christ?  That may not be proven to everyone’s satisfaction however I now believe it is (with no  doubt in my mind), the actual burial cloth that Jesus Christ was wrapped in.

Yes, I agree with this statement except I might throw in the word reasonable between no and doubt.

Further,  the image was imprinted on the cloth at the moment the resurrection took place.  Jesus Christ did indeed rise from the dead.

But why not an hour before the Resurrection? Or ten hours before? There seems to be a sense, even a belief, that the resurrection event was energetic. Many people express that view. Why?

Don’t even get me going about images of coins, flowers, lettering, etc. on the shroud.

I don’t mean to pick on the author of the blog. I have friends who agree with him. I just found it was a useful posting to make these points. See: The Real Face of Jesus « Big R’s World

So what ever happened to Pilate

E. G. Lewis tells us this much in his blog Sowing the Seeds about the early church:

imagePilate remained in office for several years after Jesus was executed. He was removed from office in AD 36 by the Syrian governor, Vitellius, for ordering troops into Samaria to attack a peaceful assembly of Samaritans. Pilate left Judea heading for Rome and an official review of his conduct before Caesar. However, by the time he arrived in Rome Tiberius was dead and Caligula had taken his place. What happened next, no one knows.

Some old traditions say Pilate committed suicide in Rome. The Christian Historian, Eusebius, tells the story and attributes it to the former governor’s remorse for the execution of Jesus. One must temper these reports of suicide with the understanding that to the Romans suicide was considered an honorable death. In fact, if someone displeased the Emperor he could order them to kill themselves and, in most cases, they complied. Other sources say he was exiled to Gaul and committed suicide in Vienne and his body was thrown into the Rhône River. There is even a monument at Vienne, called Pilate’s tomb. In Switzerland, near Lucerne, there is a Mount Pilatus. An old tradition states Pilate was banished to the mountain as punishment.

Pilate appears in apocryphal writings such as The Gospel of Peter, The Acts of Pilate, and The Acts of Peter and Paul. They address the question of what happened to Pilate and, in some cases, also depict him converting to the Christian faith. In addition to Saint Claudia, the Coptic Church also lists Pontius Pilate as a saint. How much of this is a pious attempt to show that no one is beyond redemption and how much is fact, is anyone’s guess.

It’s the Spirit that matters! And then some, too.

imageThe Rev. Ross Varney, pastor of the Belleville Congregational Church of Newburyport in The Daily News of Newburyport:

I may be a rebel, even a heretic of some sort if studied by orthodox theologians, but I never have been much interested in what exactly happened to Jesus’ body. The endless Shroud of Turin investigations do not captivate my attention. In my college years, a popular book among some Christians was "Evidence that Demands a Verdict." Even though I was a science major, it only held my attention for a chapter or two. Any attempt to "prove" the bodily resurrection of Jesus has always seemed pointless to me, even though I think most all of us have some "Doubting Thomas" in us; we’d believe more if we could see him in bodily form, touch his wounds, etc. But Jesus did not and does not come to the foot of everyone’s bed and make a personal, physical appearance. So, Jesus’ physical body on that empty tomb day must not be the most important thing. Far more important, it seems to me, is how does his Spirit live on. We remember that Jesus said, "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe." He also said that he must go away (in the body), for the Holy Spirit to come to the disciples … so that his legacy and presence would always be a matter of his Spirit.

But the human passion to seek answers whether from science, history, theology or philosophy is natural. It is part of the human spirit. The shroud captivates the attention of many people. For some it is to try to prove the Resurrection. For some it is the intellectual challenge associated with solving a puzzle.

Read on. It is a good article: Easter: It’s the Spirit that matters! » Local News » NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Happy Easter Luigi Garlaschelli

imageA blog reader sent this in. “It’s from a forthcoming book, coming this summer, The Wind and the Spirit by William Kevin Stoos (pictured),” he wrote: 

The man in the cloth looks incredibly lonesome, as if every one of his friends abandoned him in the moment of his greatest need.  And sad—sad for all time, as if the weight of the whole world were upon his shoulders. There is an eternal pensiveness in his death pose.  The stabbing thorns that cut so unkindly into his scalp and the blood that flowed from his head are visible, indelible.  They are vivid, tangible signs of the once painful wounds that hurt no more. 

The gash in his side flows with blood now etched into the cloth, running no more, but visible still—a record of one final insult visited upon him by a soldier’s side arm. His thumbs turn inward tightly, from the pressure of the crude nails against the radial nerves as they pierced the bones of his wrist, causing unimaginable pain. The gaping wound in the feet is visible, caused by the large nail driven into muscle and bone as if driven through a piece of wood. All preserved in the fabric.  Scores of blood-filled pockmarks riveted into his back by a sweating Centurion wielding a flagellum touch the fabric and testify to a brutal scourging. Leather thongs tipped with metal beads raked his flesh with incredible velocity. The fabric speaks of the indignity, suffering and humiliation inflicted on the man, who certainly experienced every type of torture, brutality and humiliation possible, in his final hours of life on earth. And Luigi Garlaschelli, an Italian atheist, says the man in the cloth is a fraud.

imageGarlaschelli (pictured with pipe) recently announced that, after years of experimenting, he has been able to reproduce the image on the Shroud of Turin. Evidently, Garlaschelli, who spent a lot of time attempting to disprove the notion that the Shroud of Turin is the actual burial cloth of Christ, believes that the matter is settled. However, the matter is indeed not resolved and many unanswered questions remain. Some believe that the image was scorched on the cloth–the product of a divine cosmic energy released at the moment of his transformation; others, such as Luigi, believe that it was etched upon the cloth by a chemical process or in some other fashion.  Perhaps no one will ever know how the man came to be on the fabric. Perhaps the Shroud was never meant to be fully understood. Perhaps it was meant simply to inspire thought, awareness, or understanding–a reminder of the unspeakable pain, suffering, and humiliation that Christ endured before His crucifixion. Regardless, Garlaschelli and others like him miss the point entirely. And therein lies the ultimate irony: in trying so hard to prove the Shroud is a fake and a forgery, in trying to attack Christianity itself, Garlaschelli, the atheist, has unwittingly helped to perpetuate the very faith he sought to attack.

What those who attempt to use science to undermine faith do not understand, is that faith, by its very nature, is unscientific. Science can neither prove nor disprove the validity of faith. People believe what they cannot see, cannot touch, and did not witness, all the time. That is the inherent nature of faith. By revisiting the subject of the Shroud, Garlaschelli has rekindled the debate and caused people to reflect upon the man in the cloth once more.

Whether The Shroud is a Holy Remnant or a Divine Fake was never really the point. The importance of The Shroud is in what it represents. A plastic crucifix has no value and is not, in itself, a thing to be worshipped; however, its intrinsic value—what it represents—is of inestimable worth. So it is with the Shroud. The Holy Spirit moves people in mysterious ways to understand and to come to a deeper faith in Christ. Perhaps they believe because of a homily, a picture, a song, a nun, or priest. Perhaps they see the stars at night and are led to believe in something greater than themselves.  If they believe because of those things, then why not because of the man on the cloth?  Does it ultimately matter how people are led to Christ? Could not the fabric divinely inspire even if it did not touch His divine person? And could it just be that the Holy Spirit–who moves in mysterious and wonderful ways in the lives of those who believe–uses atheists and forgers to pass understanding and inspire believers? Undoubtedly so. The wondrous irony is that people like Garlaschelli—who set out to disprove the faith or debunk it—sometimes reinforce and even perpetuate it.

If the Shroud is an exquisite forgery that reminds us of His suffering, death and resurrection, then it is nevertheless a good thing. If it is the fabric that touched the Divine Body, then it is an indescribably awesome and inspiring thing. If it is simply the work of a man, it is still a beautiful, poignant illustration of the ultimate sacrifice He made for us all. If it is real, “Thank God.”  But if it is a forgery that serves to remind us of His last hours on earth, “Thank God for the forger.”  For he created a poignant, stark reminder of how much He suffered for the sins of the world.

If the fabric causes someone to ponder for one brief moment the incredible suffering, sacrifice, and gift that the Son of God gave us, it is innately good. Either way, we owe a debt of gratitude to Luigi Garlaschelli, the man of science, the atheist, who spent so much time and effort theorizing how the wonderful image may have been created. He reminds us of the wonderful story of the crucifixion and how even non-believers, can, in their own way, unwittingly, ironically, perpetuate the faith.


William Kevin Stoos (aka Hugh Betcha) is a writer, book reviewer, and attorney, whose feature and cover articles have appeared in the Liguorian, Carmelite Digest, Catholic Digest, Catholic Medical Association Ethics Journal, Nature Conservancy Magazine, Liberty Magazine, Social Justice Review, Wall Street Journal Online and other secular and religious publications.  He is a regular contributing author for The Bread of Life Magazine in Canada. His review of Shadow World, by COL. Robert Chandler, propelled that book to best seller status. His book, The Woodcarver (And Other Stories of Faith and Inspiration) © 2009, William Kevin Stoos (Strategic Publishing Company)—a collection of feature and cover stories on matters of faith—was released in July of 2009. It can be purchased though many internet booksellers including Amazon, Tower, Barnes and Noble and others. Royalties from his writings go to support the Carmelites. He resides in Wynstone, South Dakota.

The article appeared yesterday in Canada Free Press under the title: Luigi and the Shroud of Turin

Happy Easter 2011


A "Rigorous" Theology: Jesus is tangibly physically resurrected and strangely altered

Andrew Sullivan has written a brilliant piece. But you should read David Brooks in the New York Times first. Sullivan is disagreeing with him. Read all of Sullivan’s A "Rigorous" Theology – The Dish (now at The Daily Beast and no longer The Atlantic).

Here is a tidbit:

Rt-picTo my mind, the truth is both at a deeper spiritual level; even if both is literally an impossible position to take on empirical grounds. Ditto the Resurrection. Was it a literal, take my shroud off and walk out experience? Or was it something more mysterious? Again the Bible tells us all sorts of contradictory things: Jesus is tangibly physically resurrected; he is strangely altered; those close to him can see him after his death and yet not recognize him at all on the road to Emmaus. These cannot all be literally true and yet they all point to a mystery at the core of our faith: He is risen.

My difference with David [Brooks], I think, is that I still believe; and I refuse to believe in something that has been disproven, however socially useful or salutary or admirable its social or personal effects may be. Fundamentalism, in this sense, is not a rigorous theology. It is rigid resistance to a rigorous theology. It’s a form of denial and despair. It is rigorous only within a theological structure that does not account for the growth and expansion of human knowledge. It is therefore, to my mind, an expression of a lack of faith rather than an excess of it. And the use of fundamentalism by those who do not even believe in it – for whatever purposes, good, bad or indifferent – is the real blasphemy.

A "Rigorous" Theology – The Dish | By Andrew Sullivan – The Daily Beast

Email of the Day: The Final Nail in the Coffin

Joe Marino writes:

imageI just finished watching the tape of the documentary about the nails found in the Caiaphas tomb that was broadcast right after the Jesus: Lost 40 Days program. In it they mention that a Roman coin was found in the skull of a woman found in the tomb. Because of the claim that there might be a Pontius Pilate coin on the Shroud image, there has been a controversy regarding whether Roman coins were used in Jewish burials or not. Some have maintained there is no archaeological evidence for it. But this is not the 1st instance of it. It seems to me that if a Roman coin was used in the burial of someone buried with Caiaphas, it is, if you’ll pardon the pun, the final nail in the coffin of the assertion that there’s no evidence for it.

three falls three crosses

The fictional Jes Adler from the screenplay Sindone, The Divine Remedy

imagethree falls
three crosses

Simon helps you
help thieves
help us

the shadow of your cross
reaches a cross
over all lands

Complete poem: divineremedy.org: Chapter 44: Gethsemane Shadow